Melbourne born, Nashville bound songstress WILSN is finally ready to do things her way. After releasing her debut EP, Don’t Give It Up, in 2015, she grew tired of other people telling her what to do, who to be, and grew frustrated with the music industry in general. With the release of her new self-titled EP, WILSN is more confident and ready to do things her way. She chats with GENRE IS DEAD! about her new EP, how she learned to play by her own rules, and why she had to get personal.
GENRE IS DEAD!: You’re from Melbourne, Australia, but you spent time in Nashville to work on music. Nashville has a great musical history, so it’s an ideal place to get some inspiration. What made you want to move there?
WILSN: Exactly that; it has such a rich musical history. I knew it had a great songwriting scene, not just for country music but for all types of music. The pop, soul, and indie scenes are growing there by the day. Some of the biggest names in pop songwriting and producing live there now. I also had a few Australian friends move there and report back on what it was like, so I did have some extra encouragement to move over there myself.
GID: You’ve been spending time working on your next EP. What are you doing this time around that differs from your past work?
WILSN: My EP is finished and due out on June 7th! I have lots of musical influences and for this EP I chose to draw on the more pop-leaning ones instead of my classic soul influences like I did for my first EP.
GID: Awesome! Can’t wait to hear it! Listening to your music, it’s got that upbeat, melodic sense of pop, but it’s got deep roots in soul, which is a big influence on you. What is it about soul music that drew you to the genre?
WILSN: Mainly the singing. I fell in love with big, soulful voices like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Donny Hathaway, and Sam Cooke at a very early age and they definitely influenced my singing voice. Aretha is my absolute number one favorite singer and artist. As well as being technically amazing, she has the ability to radiate both joy and pain in the one vocal phrase and it’s impossible for me to not be moved by her voice.
GID: Aretha truly is one of the greatest voices in music. So, you started out releasing music on your own and now your singles are getting played on Triple J and racking up millions of streams on Spotify. What’s it feel like to see your career blossom in front of your eyes?
WILSN: Honestly, looks can be deceiving. To me, it never feels like my career is blossoming. It’s always a grind and there’s always self-doubt and anxiety swirling around. Social media plays a big part in making people look more successful than they are but I do feel incredibly lucky to have gotten as far as I have even though I know I still have a long way to go!
GID: That’s interesting because when you’re on the other side, you just hear about the good stuff. But that view is starting to shift with more artists talking about their mental health. So, how do you combat those feelings of self-doubt and deal with the anxiety?
WILSN: It’s a constant battle and some days I definitely don’t deal with it very well. Having people in your life that you trust and will lift you up is a huge part of it – friends, family, and partners that truly believe in me when it seems like no one else does really helps. Also just writing about it, singing it out, listening to music, reading, and talking to friends. I’ve made a point to unfollow any social media accounts that make me feel bad instead of good, and I follow a lot of inspiring females. Sometimes when I need a pick me up, I have a scroll through their feeds.
GID: You recently premiered your new single, the inspiring female empowerment anthem, “Fight Like a Girl.” Can you tell me a bit about that song?
WILSN: I wrote it after a spate of male-led songwriting sessions where I felt like I wasn’t really being listened to or respected. I came out of those few weeks feeling really helpless and needing a bit of a pick me up, so I found myself listening to a lot of songs that I consider to be female empowerment anthems. With those songs as inspiration, I decided I wanted to write a song myself that I could use as a sort of fight-song to combat this feeling I had.
GID: What were some of the songs you were listening to at this time?
WILSN: Some of my favorites, like Aretha Franklin, Demi Lovato’s “Sorry Not Sorry,” India Arie, Alicia Keys, Jessie J’s “Who Are You?” Ainslie Williams’ “Society,” Ali Barter, stuff like that.
GID: That’s a stellar list! Well, you did a great job in creating a song with a strong message and it has a great video featuring different women showing off their own strengths. In another interview, you mentioned you’ve been wanting to write a song like this for a while. Why was now the right time to tackle it and create it?
WILSN: At the end of those writing sessions I landed in a session with a really humble, talented songwriter called Daniel Ellsworth. I ended up venting all of my frustrations to him and out came this song. He was willing to listen and learn and go down the path I wanted to go down which I hadn’t experienced before in a writing session.
GID: With the #MeToo movement and more women speaking out about their experiences, are we starting to see any changes for the better in the industry?
WILSN: It’s slow but it is happening. Festivals here in Australia are now getting called out for not booking enough female bands so I think they’re all starting to realize how unfair it is. We’re definitely seeing a lot more awareness and more male musicians speaking up about it too, like calling out sexual assault at their gigs on social media. I know a lot of men in my life have been incredibly supportive and willing to listen and learn about our experiences in the music industry as women, and that’s been really great to see.
GID: Your previous single, “Home” was about being homesick while on tour and now we have “Fight Like a Girl,” which was inspired by your experience in the studio. It sounds like you’re getting personal for this EP. What influenced the move to get more personal this time around?
WILSN: My first EP was basically all about one relationship, one theme. It was like a little bubble that I needed to burst in order to get through that heartache. But I think a lot has happened in my life between then and now. I’ve grown and learned a lot, I’ve traveled, I’ve started co-writing and in general, I’ve just experienced a whole lot more of the world. I’ve become more confident in myself and my abilities. I know what I want to write about and I’m not afraid to say it.
GID: Last year, you released the track “Do This,” which is based on your experience in the music industry and was written as a “fuck you.” Thinking back on your experiences, what’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned since launching your career?
WILSN: It’s taken me a while to learn this but just to listen to my gut and have confidence in my own talent and abilities. I spent years listening to other people’s opinions on what I should do, how I should do it, and just basically wasting time when I could have been releasing music and doing things my way. So yeah, it’s hard work, but I’m working on being steadfast and knowing what I want, ’cause it can be a brutal industry.
GID: You’re wrapping up your tour with Meg Mac. How did you come to be a part of that show?
WILSN: I opened for her as WILSN a few years back at The Corner Hotel in Melbourne. I was already a fan of her voice and songs but I was pretty sure she didn’t know who I was. She followed me on social media after the show and kept up with my singing from there, I guess. She messaged me while I was at work one day and asked if I’d be keen to sing backing vocals for her! Obviously, I said yes! I already knew all of her songs so why not?
GID: What’s next for WILSN?
WILSN: My EP is out on June 7 and I’ll be doing a tour so keep your eyes open for announcements.